The Law On Using Hand-held Phones or Similar Devices While Driving
On 1st December 2003, a law, The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2003, came into force to prohibit drivers using a hand-held mobile phone, or similar device, while driving. It also made it an offence to "cause or permit" a driver to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving, or to use a hand-held mobile phone while supervising a driver who only has a provisional licence.
The penalty for using a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving is £60 and three penalty points added to the drivers' licence. However, the case may go to court. If it does, the penalty could be disqualification from driving or riding and a maximum fine of £1,000. If you're a driver of a bus or goods vehicle, you could face a maximum fine of £2,500.
The Definition of a Hand-Held Mobile Phone
The Regulation includes any "device, other than a two-way radio, which performs an interactive communication function by transmitting and receiving data".
It states that a "mobile telephone or other device is to be treated as hand-held if it is, or must be, held at some point during the course of making or receiving a call or performing any other interactive communication function". "interactive communication function" includes;
- Sending or receiving oral or written messages;
- Sending or receiving facsimile documents;
- Sending or receiving still or moving images; and
- Providing access to the internet
Drivers should also note that the existing law requiring drivers to be in proper control of their vehicle, or careless or dangerous driving laws can be applied to driving while using a hands-free phone, if the police believe the nature of the driving warrants it.
The Definition Of Driving
Under existing law a person may be regarded as "driving" a vehicle while the engine is running and the vehicle is stationary. The offence applies to all motor vehicles, including motorcycles, but not apply to pedal cycles. The law applies;
- When you are driving or riding any motor vehicle
- When you're stopped at traffic lights
- When you're queuing in traffic
The law includes an offence of "causing or permitting" a driver to use a hand-held phone while driving. This can apply to employers who will be guilty of an offence if they require or permit their staff who drive for work, to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving.
Dangers Of Using a Hand Held Mobile Phone Or Similar Device While Driving
Research shows that using a hand-held or hands-free mobile phone while driving is a significant distraction, and substantially increases the risk of the driver crashing.
Drivers who use a mobile phone, whether hand-held or hands-free;
- Are much less aware of what’s happening on the road around them
- Fail to see road signs
- Fail to maintain proper lane position and steady speed
- Are more likely to 'tailgate' the vehicle in front
- React more slowly, take longer to brake and longer to stop
- Are more likely to enter unsafe gaps in traffic
- Feel more stressed and frustrated.
They are also four times more likely to crash, injuring or killing themselves and other people.
Using a hands-free phone while driving does not significantly reduce the risks because the problems are caused mainly by the mental distraction and divided attention of taking part in a phone conversation at the same time as driving. (Source RoSPA)
Switch it off before you drive off